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Classic Columns: Kid Gavilan





20
Apr

Kid Gavilan, a Hall of Famer fighter from Cuba, paved the way for rising stars Yuriorkis Gamboa and Erislandi Lara. Photo / THE RING

Classic Columns by magazine founder Nat Fleischer and other RING magazine writers over the past 86 years are posted Tuesdays. Today's column, by Fleischer, is posted with the rise of young Cuban fighters Yuriorkis Gamboa and Erislandi Lara in mind. Hall of Famer Kid Gavilan, a Cuban who fought in the 1940s and '50s, was welterweight champion during the rise of televised fights. The story was published in April 1949, shortly after he outpointed another Hall of Famer, Ike Williams.

Give the fight fans a contest that is likely to furnish the thrills that attract, and neither television nor the current tightness of the money market will keep them away from [Madison Square] Garden. This was amply proved in the recent Kid Gavilan-Ike Williams return engagement in which 15,125 persons, many of them Latin-Americans, paid $57,195, for the privilege of being on hand. As we have repeatedly pointed out, there is nothing wrong with boxing that cannot be cured by a good attraction between well-matched boys and a price of admission within reach of the average fans.

By defeating Ike Williams and breaking his winning streak of 20, Gavilan stepped one notch closer to a fight for the world welterweight crown held by the elusive Ray Robinson. Perhaps now that Ray is ready to resume boxing and the various bodies controlling the sport are prepared to force the issue, Robinson will give this worthy Cuban, one of the many RING discoveries, an opportunity to compete in a championship battle. Gavilan won the decision over Williams by a two to one vote of the officials, Referee Ruby Goldstein, America’s finest referee, calling it a draw, and the judges, Harold Barnes and Artie Schwartz, voting in favor of the Cuban. My tally showed Williams in the lead, five rounds to four and one even.

Though there was very little to choose between the combatants, so close was the score, I agree with Williams that the huge turnout of Cubans among other Latin-Americans who rooted every time Gavilan made a swing whether it landed or not, had considerable bearing on the decision and the attitude of the big gathering. Taking no credit away from Gavilan for his excellent performance, the fact remains that many of his punches never landed. Ike drove home the cleaner blows, was the aggressor most of the time. He blocked and picked off what must have looked like haymakers to the galleryites.

They cheered to the echo “The Kid’s” every movement. Gavilan fought in wild, unexpected spurts during which he rushed into Williams’ swinging and tossing bolo punches some of which struck home with force while most of them were smothered by Ike’s arms or elbows or went over his head as the lightweight king cleverly ducked or side-stepped. But Ike never received credit from the galleryites for that. They apparently didn’t see that part of the fight for one could hear a pin drop when Ike scored but the roof came down every time The Kid went into action, miss, hit, or whatnot.

One had to be close to the ring and to have Williams face him to see how artistically Williams kept picking off punches with his gloves with the accuracy of the master in that line, Jack Johnson. He blocked them with his forearms, caught many with his gloves, stopped them with elbows and shoulders, and often just rode away out of reach so that out of two dozen tosses, probably five landed. In the final round, for example, the session that decided the issue with fans and officials alike, Gavilan tore into his opponent like a wild man and threw dozens of punches, but few struck home. The action is what caught most of the crowd and many of the scribes who didn’t see the many misses, but that whirlwind “attack” gave The Kid the fight.

Yet I found no fault with the verdict so close was the battle. The crowd had a good time. The spectators both in the house that Tex built and those who viewed the fight by television, enjoyed the show and so did I. A repeater will fill the Garden and prove that video can’t hurt if the proper attractions are staged and the price of admission is right.